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Brazil nightclub fire: No fire alarm, just one door

"Why couldn't they get out?" asks the mother of one of the 231 nightclub victims. Investigators have found that the overcrowded club had only one exit and no smoke or fire alarms.

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People march into a tunnel near the Kiss nightclub on Monday, Jan. 28, to honor the victims of Sunday's fatal fire inside the club in Santa Maria, Brazil. The tragedy at the Kiss nightclub was the world's worst fire of its kind in more than a decade, with 231 people dead and this southern Brazilian college town in shock and mourning.

Felipe Dana / AP

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The nightclub Kiss was hot, steamy from the press of beer-fueled bodies dancing close. The Brazilian country band on stage was whipping the young crowd into a frenzy, launching into another fast-paced, accordion-driven tune and lighting flares that spewed silver sparks into the air.

It was another Saturday night in Santa Maria, a university town of about 260,000 on Brazil's southernmost tip.

Then, in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, it turned into a scene of indescribable horror as sparks lit a fire in the soundproofing material above the stage, churning out black, toxic smoke as flames raced through the former beer warehouse, killing 231 people.

 

"I was right there, so even though I was far from the door, at least I realized something was wrong," said Rodrigo Rizzi, a first-year nursing student who was next to the stage when the fire broke out and watched the tragedy unfold, horror-stricken and helpless.

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